A more anticipated major league debut comes tonight, when Orioles top prospect Matt Wieters takes his first big league swings in front of a packed crowd at Camden Yards.
The ballpark was only about a quarter full Thursday night for the start of another Oriole's major league career, but that hardly mattered to David Hernandez. The right-hander allowed one run over 5 2/3 innings, and Luke Scott connected for two homers and four RBIs as the Orioles downed the Detroit Tigers, 5-1, before an announced 11,937 on another wet night in Baltimore.
The Orioles' season-best fourth straight win moved the team to 22-26, the closest it has been to the .500 mark since April 29.
"When you win, it's just a whole lot of fun," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "The last inning, I saw nine guys on the top step and on the rail. [Brian] Roberts called the home run in the dugout before Scott hit it [in the eighth inning]. I mean, there's just a real good feel about what's going on. ... We've got a long way to go, but I felt a few days ago that we were starting to turn the corner."
Hernandez, 24, became the fourth Orioles starter this season to win his first major league game, and in turn, the Orioles became the first team since 1961 to have four pitchers win their debuts in the same season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Hernandez joined Koji Uehara, Brad Bergesen and Jason Berken in accomplishing the feat.
"It's good to see them do well," said Hernandez, who allowed five hits, walked four and struck out three. "When I first got here, they were keeping me comfortable. It made the transition easy for me."
Hernandez struggled at times, but the pitcher, who was 3-1 with a 2.91 ERA in eight starts for Triple-A Norfolk when he was called up to replace the injured Uehara, made the pitches when he needed them. Fighting both his nerves and his command, Hernandez walked two in the first inning but escaped a jam with runners on first and third and one out, striking out Miguel Cabrera, the American League's-leading hitter, in the process.
The Tigers (26-20) got on the board in the fifth inning but failed to get the go-ahead run despite again having men on the corners and one out. Detroit again had runners on the corners in a one-run game in the sixth inning, and Hernandez got Jeff Larish to foul out. After walking Gerald Laird to load the bases, Hernandez left the game to a standing ovation.
Matt Albers struck out Ramon Santiago to get out of the jam, and Jim Johnson pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings to keep Hernandez in position to win.
"David was excited, but after the first inning he really settled down," Trembley said. "I was impressed once again, with not only his stuff, but his poise, his mound presence. And I know the guys are really getting a kick out of playing behind some of these new guys who are coming up because they're attacking the hitters."
Rookie outfielder Nolan Reimold broke a tie at 1 with a solo shot off Armando Galarraga in the fifth. It was his fifth homer and third in as many games. Scott, who put the Orioles on the board with a second-inning homer, hit a three-run shot in the eighth off Ryan Perry.
Center fielder Adam Jones then put the exclamation point on another highly entertaining night for the home team by slamming Hernandez with a shaving cream pie, the same treatment Reimold got Wednesday and Berken on Tuesday.
"I think you could see it in our dugout. Everybody is jumping around. Everybody is happy," Jones said. "Because the team is getting a little younger, but it is getting more interesting. Everybody is enjoying it. I guess Wieters will be here tomorrow, so hopefully we can pie him."